Friday, October 25, 2013

10/25/13 Giving Thanks!

Dear Friends and Family,

Gabrielle here.  Our hearts are overflowing with joy to tell you the news that my five-month CA-125 test today was 12.5!  That is DOWN from the July test number of 13.4!!  As you will recall, the normal range for any healthy woman off the street is 0 to 30.  I am below the middle of normal.  We are so relieved and thankful to God! 

I have been feeling really great lately.  I have good energy (about 90% of pre-cancer energy) and am able to exercise at my pre-cancer levels.  Some of you know that I am a fast walker and recently, my friends have been telling me to slow down.  What an amazing thing this is after earlier this year I could barely walk up and down the stairs in my house a couple of times a day.  And on November 1, I will be returning to my 80% work schedule at SPU, working full days Mondays through Thursdays.  This past two months I've been at 70% time. 

Next month I have been asked to speak and give my personal "story of thanks" at SPU's all-campus Thanksgiving Chapel.  I wish I could speak for an hour because I have so much to say on this subject!  Unfortunately, they only gave me six minutes.  What were they thinking??  How can I condense the last year's worth of my thankfulness into six minutes?!  I will do my best.  If any of you would like to attend this Chapel, it will be held on November 26 at 11:00 AM in the First Free Methodist Church main sanctuary.  Free hugs afterwards for anyone who comes!  :-)

Thanks be to God for wanting to keep me around a bit longer (!) and thanks to all of you, my dear friends and family, for your continual prayers on my behalf and your frequent inquiries into how I am doing.  We love you all.

"Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  Eph. 5:19-20


P.S. Thinking of making music in our hearts to the Lord, here's a fun video from pre-cancer days--Daniel and me dancing to "The Monster Mash" while Renee films on her phone and laughs!  :-)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

9/21/13 Happy Fall!

Dear Family and Friends,

Well, the gray skies arrived today, after a most beautiful summer and early September, as we welcome in the first day of Fall tomorrow.  After a very active summer, I am ready for the cooler days, big pots of soup, and curling up with some good books.

After my GLORIOUS normal CA125 blood tumor marker test in July, all four Dudleys had a fun trip to the San Juan Islands on our boat in August.  We spent one night with friends, Howard and Nancy, having fun eating great food and fishing, and then explored on our own for a couple of days, with hikes at Sucia and Jones islands.  Last weekend Steve and I went to Crater Lake for the first time.  Below are some pictures from that trip.  We were blessed with nice weather and we SWAM in that cold lake, jumping off rocks into the cleanest, clearest water we have ever seen.  You can drink the lake as you swim!  It's that pure.  You can't look at Crater Lake without seeing the majesty of God's design and creativity.  It was spectacular. 

The final picture below is of my one little inch of new hair.  Man--I never knew how slowly hair grows!  It is growing in thick, and brown (not gray!), but totally straight.  My previous hair had been kind of wavy.  But believe me, I don't care at all.  To have any hair is a wonder to me and I will try to never complain of a bad hair day ever again!

In other Dudley family news, Renee is interviewing for jobs with nonprofits in town.  Please pray she will get just the right one.  She is pretty awesome at interviews and already got offered one job.  Unfortunately, after learning more about it, she needed to turn that one down, as it didn't feel like the right fit to her.  And Daniel is already in his fourth week of medical school!  He had a huge anatomy exam yesterday on everything you can find in the head and neck.  I guess there is a LOT of stuff in there!  Afterwards, the school hosted the first year students for a pizza party to celebrate their survival of that exam.  So it's off to the races for junior doctor Dudley. 

As to my health, I am feeling pretty well, overall.  I am at about 90% energy, and have been so delighted to be able to hike and swim and travel this summer.  Thanks be to God!  Though I'm physically doing well, emotionally, the post-chemo days have been pretty rough.  Once you quit chemo, and there are no more drugs killing cancer cells, you begin to fear that any "chemo-resistant cancer cells" that might be in there are beginning to grow again.  Every ache or pain you experience, you get a pang of fear that cancer is returning.  It is a constant psychological and spiritual battle EVERY day.  I tell myself "you don't have cancer TODAY."  "You are not going to die TODAY, so quit worrying and enjoy the day."  And of course, I pray continually and ask God to help me "run with perseverance the race marked out for me, looking unto Jesus..."  It always comes back to "eyes on Jesus" to get through each day.  And of course, I am fully engaged in looking for joy in each and every day, and with seeing each day as a total gift from God.  I hope you are too! 

My next CA125 test is October 25.  Please pray for another normal test and for continued remission.  Thank you!  May God bless you and hold you close through whatever trials you are facing.  If I can pray for you for something specific you are going through, I would be honored to do so, as your prayers and support were such a lifeline for me.  Just let me know!


Steve on the rocks at Crater Lake.  Chilly, refreshing and so pure you can drink it.

Toketee Falls, along the North Fork of the Umpqua River.  Many people think this is the most beautiful waterfall in Oregon.  A "must see"!

Some guy I met on the crater rim drive.  He offered to show me a good time.  Wizard Island in the background. 
A few of the many pinnacles we saw along one of the drives just below the rim.  They are actually fossilized fumaroles.  Has something to do with steam vents when the volcano erupted.  They are hollow inside and the most bizarre things you could ever imagine.  We thought we had stepped into a Dr. Seuss book and kept looking for some guy named Sam I Am holding a plate of green eggs and ham.

I love my hair!  Sure beats the "fresh from chemo" look!  It is coming in straight, a little lighter and not one gray hair in the bunch (but if there was, I wouldn't tell).  But, boy does it grow slowly!  Anyone got some Miracle Gro I can try?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

8/10/13 Dancing the coast of Maine

Hello! This is Daniel. I just want to say thank you once again to all of you out there, some of whom I know, some whom I may never know, who have kept my mom in your thoughts and prayers this year. I am convinced that this loving support and consistent prayer has played an instrumental role in her healing journey. You have all given our family hope, joy, laughter, support, sympathy, and compassion. Thank you for being with us through the darkest hour, which at the time seemed like it would never pass. Now we can all celebrate together, because my mom is healthy, happy, and cancer-free! To celebrate her victorious completion of 19 weeks of chemotherapy we went on a celebratory trip to the coast of Maine, where none of us had ever been before. It was truly a wonderful time to relax, and play, and celebrate the wonderful Gabrielle! We saw lots of amazing lighthouses, ate lots of lobster (it's so cheap over there!), and of course we did some dancing! If you have ever worked with Gabrielle, you probably know she loves to dance, and of course it has rubbed off on the rest of us. I hope you like this video I put together, "Dancing with Lighthouses".
Thanks again for your love and support! Praise the Lord for my mom's healing! -Daniel 

Dancing with Lighthouses

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

7/23/13 July 2013 Update: First post-cancer CA125 results!

Dear Family and Friends,

It is with a smile on my face and immense gratitude in my heart, to God and all of you who have prayed for me, that I report my "passing grade" on my first post-cancer CA-125 test!  As you may remember, the "normal" scale for the ovarian cancer tumor marker in a woman's blood is 0 to 30.  My score yesterday was a 13.4!!!  Smack dab in the middle of normal!

This first test score weighed heavily on our family's minds and hearts because you don't know what will happen once you no longer have the weekly chemo that has been destroying your cancer cells.  Did it miss a few?  Are they multiplying like crazy again?  This great score tells us my cancer remains firmly in remission, and allows us to relax, breathe, and live each day to the fullest for another three months until the next test comes along. 

Since we last blogged, we "took a break from cancer" to celebrate the end of the long surgery/chemo journey.  The four of us enjoyed a wonderful trip to the coast of Maine where I believe we saw just about every lighthouse and ate just about every lobster and gourmet ice cream cone on that 350-mile stretch of coast we covered!  If you love sandy and rocky beaches, quaint little towns and coves filled with fishing boats, and the aforementioned lighthouses, lobster, and ice cream, then go to the coast of Maine!!!

Last weekend Steve and I travelled to San Diego for our nephew's wedding.  It was a beautiful wedding and great chance for Steve and I to go on walks and lay on a sandy beach in the sunshine doing absoultely nothing (didn't even bring a book to the beach).  We also hit the pool with enthusiasm as we are both training (along with Renee) for a Children's Hospital fund-raising swim on Aug. 25.  It is 1.4 miles across Lake Washington and I am up to 45 minutes of continuous swimming so far.  Need to get to one hour, 15 minutes before the race (I think I can, I think I can...).

I have also returned to work at SPU!  Just three days a week to start.  The first week back, I would get home from work and collapse on the couch before I could even think about helping with dinner.  Did you know that if you remain collapsed on the couch long enough, your husband, son, or some other kindly person visiting your home might end up making dinner for you?!  ;-)  But each week I feel my strength returning, about 5% per week, I would estimate.  By September, I hope to be strong enough to resume my normal four-day work weeks. 

I can't tell you what joy it brings me to go to work, ride on an airplane without getting sick, to work out again to near my previous levels of fitness, and to EAT all the foods that I couldn't tolerate during chemo, including last night's splurge of king salmon with some friends...king salmon being my all-time favorite protein.  It was also a joy to go crabbing and to catch so much that we could give crab cakes away to family and friends and take a crab meal to a family just beginning their cancer journey (surgery over, but chemo yet to start).  To be able to give again, and not just be on the receiving end of so much love and kindness, is both humbling and heart-warming.  Thank you, Lord!

I will try to get Daniel to add some photos to this blog post later this week and then we will blog again in August.  Until then, bless you for your continued prayers for the nerve pain in my feet (a long-term side-effect of chemo) and that my cancer will remain FIRMLY in remission.  I hope you are having a wonderful summer, wherever you live, and that you will find moments (or big huge hunks) of joy in each and every day of your life this summer!


Monday, June 3, 2013

6/3/13 Celebrating!

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm sorry I haven't written sooner to tell you how overjoyed I am to be done with cancer treatments...but I've been so busy celebrating, I haven't had a second to touch the computer until now! 

Final chemo #18 on Friday was so much fun.  I know--how weird is that to call chemo fun?!  But Daniel and I and everyone at the Seattle Women's Cancer Care Center were celebrating that my chemo was ending.  They sang to me and blew off those New Year's paper poppers.  Then we ate chocolate raspberry cake from Simply Desserts (my favorite cake bakery in the world).  We couldn't even finish a Scrabble game because everyone kept coming in and hugging me and congratulating us.  And we gave hand-written note cards and Molly Moon's ice cream gift cards to the six people on the team to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for helping me through.  They loved getting those!

Since then, I feel as if I am floating and need to pinch myself with how surreal it feels to be done.  To have plucked the last pink paper chain ring from the banister.  To not have to return to get blood work checked until July 19.  Seven glorious weeks of life ahead with no visit to the cancer center.  And knowing that each day will bring back my strength, my taste buds, my hair--it's all too wonderful for words.

The four of us went out to dinner Friday night to celebrate at my favorite Mediterranean restaurant--The Mediterranean Kitchen in Bellevue.  After, it was a sunny evening and we walked about the beautiful park near Bel Square.  On Saturday we went to the Saturday farmer's market in Edmonds and then out for a boat ride on Lake Union.  And on Sunday we took the boat to Blake Island with my sister and her husband where we picnicked, laid on blankets on the beach talking, and hiked the island trails.  What a great weekend of celebrating the start of cancer remission.  Thanks be to God!

From this point on, I will need to have my chest port flushed every six weeks (or seven this first go around), and every 12th week they will also check my CA125 to keep it "under surveillance" and make sure it remains in the normal range of 0 to 30.  They will keep the port in for a minimum of two years (!) just in case we need it again.  Those words send shivers through my spine!

Will you please continue to pray for me that we won't need the port again?  That I will be in the "statistical group" for whom this cancer will not recur?  I  know recurrence is a possibility.  I had a very advanced stage of this dreadful cancer.  But each day I pray that God will allow me to see Daniel graduate from medical school, to see Renee and Daniel get married, to know and be a blessing in the lives of my grandchildren, and to be there for my beloved husband, Steve, in our old age. 

And while I lift that prayer to God each day, I also ask Him to help me trust Him when fear of the future creeps in.  To focus on the gift of the present day and not waste the days God is giving me now on worry about things that may or may not occur later.  I know Who holds the future and He can be trusted with all of it.  He has proved that time and again.

When the disciples were afraid on the Mount of Transfiguration it says "But Jesus came and touched them.  'Get up,' he said.  'Don't be afraid.'  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."

And it all boils down to that.  The words my friend, Loretta, gave me right at the start of this difficult journey.  "Eyes on Jesus," she said.  How right she was (is)!


P.S.  Thank you all so much for reading our blog and praying for me/us these past five months.  We felt every prayer and were encouraged with every card, meal, and kindness.  Please continue to pray for smooth remission sailing and we will update the blog from time to time to stay in touch.  We estimate we will write about once a month moving forward (so we won't have to think/focus on cancer "too" often in this surveillance period)!  We love you all and could not be more grateful for our magnificent "rope team!"  :-)

Friday, May 31, 2013

5/31/13 To my wife on this, her last chemo day.

Dearest Gabrielle,

Well, today’s the day, the one we have been eagerly awaiting since way back in January when we started this journey.  It seems so long ago.  In a few hours, you will pack your trusty chemo bag with your special blanket, snacks, hand-held Scrabble and People magazines and head off for your eighteenth and final treatment.

I want to take this moment to tell you how proud I have been of you in all of this.  From Day One, you have faced this pesky little problem with tremendous grace, courage and dignity.  Your resolve in fighting cancer has never wavered and your joy has shone like a beacon of hope.  You have been such an inspiration, not only to me but to countless people out there whose lives you have touched.  At a time when you have been at your most vulnerable, you have made it a priority to reach out and minister to others, helping them with words of wisdom, encouragement, thoughts and prayers.

The thing that has most struck me is your amazing faith and trust in God.  Your inner faith shines through so beautifully in your words, your blog entries and your calm demeanor throughout this journey.  Anger?  At a time when you have every right to be angry at God, that is not something that I have observed in you. You have an unwavering faith that God is on His throne and holds you in the palm of His hand and that wherever this journey takes you, God is there with you.  What better place to be?

You have reminded me of this verse from Isaiah and which I give back to you:

When you pass through the (deep) waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Is. 43:2-3

Please indulge me one more passage from the Bible.  This one is a little paraphrase of mine from Psalm 91.  It goes like this:

Psalm. 91.  Gabrielle who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Gabrielle will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."  Surely he will save Gabrielle from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover Gabrielle with his feathers, and under his wings Gabrielle will find refuge; his faithfulness will be Gabrielle’s shield and rampart.  Gabrielle will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at Gabrielle’s side, ten thousand at Gabrielle’s right hand, but it will not come near Gabrielle.  If Gabrielle makes the Most High her dwelling—even the LORD, who is Gabrielle’s refuge—then no harm will befall Gabrielle, no disaster will come near Gabrielle.  For he will command his angels concerning Gabrielle to guard Gabrielle in all Gabrielle’s ways; they will lift Gabrielle up in their hands, so that Gabrielle will not strike Gabrielle’s foot against a stone. Gabrielle will tread upon the lion and the cobra; Gabrielle will trample the great lion and the serpent. "Because he loves Gabrielle," says the LORD, "I will rescue Gabrielle; I will protect Gabrielle, for Gabrielle acknowledges my name.  Gabrielle will call upon me, and I will answer Gabrielle; I will be with Gabrielle in trouble, I will deliver Gabrielle and honor Gabrielle. With long life will I satisfy Gabrielle and show Gabrielle my salvation.  Psalm 91, RSV*

(* Revised Steve Version)

Good stuff, huh?  It is almost as good as my favorite Bible verse: “Now, Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs” Acts 6:8.  Not sure why I like that one so much.  For some reason, it just speaks to me.  But that’s just a little aside.

I have been blessed to have you as my wife for over 30 years.  My love for you has never been deeper than it has been right now as we face this struggle together.  You are a champion and I admire you so much.  Thank you for everything.  Now, get into that ring and kick the stuffing out of cancer one more time!  Looking forward to a big celebration when all this is said and done and while you’re still hopped up on steroids.  Did someone say Mexican food??



p.s.  And, of course, a major thank you to Renee and Daniel who have been so amazing throughout this as well. You are the best children I could ever hope to have.  I feel so blessed and humbled to be your dad. 

p.p.s.  As for the rest of our “rope team”, a big thanks to you as well.  We could not have done it without each and every one of you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

5/26/13 Scrabble champ!


As Gabrielle may have alluded to on more than one occassion, she loves Scrabble.  It's a great way to kill time during chemo (or any other time, for that matter) as she schools Daniel or me (or anyone else wandering by) in this game of wit and verbal creativity.  She may have also mentioned that most of the time, she wins (though I did manage to eke out a rare victory on Friday).  She LOVES to win!  What she may have not told you is that I secretly photographed some recent sessions she has had with the Scrabble board, and am including them here for your perusal.  She also seems to think that having cancer means that she can make new Scrabble rules and has made two:

1.  The words don't have to touch.
2.  You can use any letter you want as a blank if you run out of the letters you need.

So here they are:

On this game, for some reason, I was the one playing words like "I" and "no", while she came up with "fighter" and "no quitter" and "butt".  Needless to say, she cleaned my clock on this round.  I protested over the word "butt", saying it was a little too racey for a family game like Scrabble.  I tried to make my own rule of: no "ifs, ands or butts", but she shot me down.  I guess you get veto power of new rules if you're the one getting chemo (emoticon wink inserted here....I don't know how to make those little doodads).

It's really hard to beat her when she gets the "x" and "z" and comes up with such nifty words.  I made "and", "on" and "can-er" (that's cancer, not canker, though it would be nice to be zapping the pesky canker sore I'm dealing with right now).

I thought I had her on this one, as I knew that the one who is supposed to hit the road is "Jack", but then she throws a curve ball at me and tells Zeke to hit the road.  I protested, to which she waved a "Q" in my face and told me that she could have told "Zaraq" to hit the road.  That shut me up.

I will leave it to your imagination as to what Gabrielle was thinking when she played those four blanks.  She just got a big grin on her face when she played them.  Rear?  Heck?  Snot?  Butt?  Can't think of anything else that might fit I said, this is a family friendly game.

Can't argue with that!

Yep, thought I had her again when I threw the "nada" on at the end of her "nothing", then she pulls out her last letters and plays them on the triple word score...nothing like using your "z" in a triple.  I had no chance.  Perhaps this one should have read, "Steve...what are his chances of winning at Scrabble?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip."

Good, positive thoughts.  Short game, but I couldn't think of anything to add after "cancer", so we called it good. 

There she is, playing a high scoring letter over the triple word score again.  Mega, mega points!  I couldn't protest too loudly at her good fortune to score so well.  After all, who wouldn't want a triple serving of Jesus at a time like this?  Or any time at all, for that matter?

And with that, we called it a day!

So, if any of you out there want to take her on, be my guest.  This is especially true if you like having your clock cleaned by Gabrielle.  Fortunately, she takes the same winning attitude into her chemo sessions and is closing in on being done with the whole shooting match.  Perhaps I should add "eyes on the prize".  Any way you slice it, she's a formidable golf, Scrabble, ovarian cancer.  It picked the wrong person to take on, that's what I say.

And with that, I'm going to sign out, eat some shrimp, and study the Scrabble dictionary.

Friday, May 24, 2013

5/24/13 One week to go!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

Gabrielle here.  I am thrilled to report that I completed chemo #17 today in four hours, 15 minutes!  After five days of the Neupogen shots in my stomach my white cell counts are good again.  Not only is this great in terms of allowing me to get chemo, it also frees me up to do a few more things (safely be in the grocery store, a restaurant, etc.) and has helped me avoid catching the Steve, Daniel, Renee horrible cold!  Amazing! 

Due to Daniel's cold, I went to chemo alone today.  But to my delight, Steve had a little break in his day and was able to ride his bike over from work long enough to cream me at Scrabble.  Now in my defense, you must know that we started to play EXACTLY when they started dripping into me a huge bag of Benadryl.  If you have ever taken that, you know it makes you SO sleepy!  Try playing smartypants Steve in Scrabble with sleep drugs dripping into your veins.  I'm not a poor loser...really I'm not...I'm just explaining the extenuating circumstances of my slaughter.  ;-)

Another happy surprise in the middle of chemo was that they brought me the most delicious dessert!  We often bring them cookies, so today they said it was my turn.  They brought me lemon cake (lemon has been my favorite flavor when nauseous), with lemon curd filling, topped with vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream and fresh raspberries and blueberries!  Oh my was so delicious.  I ate it for lunch instead of the quick string cheese, wheat crackers, and apple slices I had brought.

One shout out to Daniel--even though he has been sick as a dog all week, he arose before me this morning to pack my chemo bag and make me breakfast.  When I got home, he had gardened and then made a fabulous veggie lasagna and homemade foccacia bread topped with fresh garden rosemary and salt for dinner without letting me lift a finger.  And we only get to keep him for three more months, then he's off to live near the U.W. campus.  Twenty-something women of the world--if you come across a guy like this, grab him quick! (Daniel better not read this...he will be mortified.) 

As usual, I want to thank those who sent me loving, encouraging cards this week.  There is one friend who sends cards EVERY week and she knows who she is.  You are precious to me, as are all of you.  :-)  And thanks to the world's cutest newlyweds, Ami and Matt, who brought us an amazing Thai Food feast last night (Thurs. nights being my least nauseous night).  So good to spend time eating Thai food, playing Canasta, talking, and eating my Martha Stewart homemade hot fudge sundaes and Daniel's cookies for dessert.  Ami and Matt can eat like true Dudleys! 

I wish you were all here to see my little, tiny, minuscule, almost non-existent pink chemo paper chain.  Seven little links.  I'll ask Steve to put on a photo for you (most of you know that a technological genius I am not).  The end is in sight.  God, and all your prayers, love, and kindnesses have seen me (us) through.  My heart is overflowing with joy and hope tonight. 

In closing, on this Memorial Day weekend, we are to remember.  Let's remember and thank God for those who have given and risked their lives and limbs for our freedom and security...and "I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember your wonders of old."  Psalm 77:11.  I will always remember His faithfulness to me and my family and the gift of you who have been on our "rope team" for these last five months!

Love, Gabrielle

P.S.  This week's prayer requests--for Renee and Daniel to be healed of their colds, for me not to catch them (the colds, not the kids), and for the chemo-induced neuropathy pain in my hands and feets to quiet down and when chemo ends, to go away.  Thank you!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5/23/13 Hole-In-Wonderfuls Round 4!

Hello all! Sports reporter Daniel here.

The Hole-In-Wonderfuls have competed in three more mini golf cups over the last several weeks, and I am here to report to the blogosphere all the adventures:
In an attempt to play at every course around us, we drove north to Lynwood, WA for the 18 hole course at "Family Fun Center & Bullwinkle's Restaurant". This 18-hole championship miniature golf course offers 9 holes in a tropical, tiki, mid-century Hawaiian vacation-styled indoor course, and 9 holes outside in a pirate adventure theme. It was quite an experience! My mom and I noted how we could save a lot of money the next time we wanted a Hawaiian vacation, by just coming here! They even had a vintage sounding Hawaiian lounge music soundtrack. An added bonus, was the fact that we were playing around 11 am on a Tuesday, and there were no other players in site. It was like we were members of a highly exclusive mini golf country club!

Gabrielle preparing to sink her shot!
Mom and the large tiki!

One of the main advantages of mini golf over regular golf is the wide variety of ball colors

The Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii Edmonds!
After 9 holes in tiki land, we ventured outside where we tried our best to be under Paaaarrrrghhhh! (pirate joke). The course was nicely landscaped, with various shades of synthetic grass to emulate water and land. The best part was a simulated fight scene between pirates, and sea monsters, that included cannons, a sinking pirate ship, and life-like monsters. It was fantastic! I think mom was distracted by all the fanfare, which is why I was able to eek out a victory.

With our Hole-In-Wonderfuls mascot, Mrs. PotatoHead

My awesome mom and golf partner!

What fun monsters these were! A definite must next time you are looking for fun at 220th and Aurora Ave!

Tropical plants (real and faux) set the tone

At the end of our 18 holes, we could have also played lazer tag, driven go carts, hit balls in the batting cage, done the ropes course, or bumper boats, but instead we went to Chipotle and ate delicious burritos with guacamole and chips. Somehow that sounded better than a bucket of fried chicken at Bullwinkle's Restaurant.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5/21/13 Home Stretch

Dear Family and Friends,

Gabrielle here.  I can't stop thinking about the fact that when I pull off my little pink paper chain ring tonight, there will be just TEN rings left. That's right--ten days from tomorrow I will have my final chemo treatment!  Thus, on our walk today (in the pouring rain, I might add), Daniel and I had fun discussing what my top ten things things were to look forward to about ending chemo.  Of course there are many more than ten, but here are my Letterman's Top Ten--in no particular order. 

10.  Energy.  Today, like most people would feel after 16 straight weeks of chemo, I had little energy.  Barely enough to shower, brush my teeth, eat, and have a short walk.  Other than that it was just reading and t.v.  I can't wait to have a normal amount of energy again! 

9.  Hair.  Bye bye hats, scarves, and the wig I've probably only worn five times because it gives me headaches.  Hello to needing more shampoo than the size of half of a grain of rice to clean my scalp!

8.  Sushi.  Japonessa happy hour and fresh, raw fish--here I come!

7.  No nausea.  Nausea was much better when you knew that it was going to produce a beautiful new baby to love.  I so look forward to not feeling nauseous...though it was surely not a price too high to pay for medicine that has killed my cancer. 

6.  No metal taste in my mouth.  Try eating your next meal while sucking on a penny and you will understand how much I look forward to this one.  (Don't really try this...or if you do, have someone standing by to Heimlich you!)

5.  Crowds and Kids.  When your immune system is blasted by chemo, you are frequently told by your chemo nurses to avoid crowds, kids, and sick people.  I look forward to enjoying crowds and kids again....though if you are sick, please continue to stay away until you are well!

4.  Blue Cheese.  I love blue cheese and while on chemo, it's not the best idea to ingest moldy foods.  I have cheated on this one a time or too, but not without a large slice of guilt and anxiety.  Here's to the return of moldy cheese!

3.  Work.  I know.  All of you are counting down the days until your summer vacations from work while I am just gearing up to head back.  But it will be really great to have something challenging and meaningful to do with my days, to see my wonderful colleagues and donors again, and to receive paychecks again!

2.  Clean Kitchen Table.  If you've been to our house during chemo, you have probably been shocked by the arsenal of drugs lined up the full length of our kitchen table.  Soon it will be goodbye to pills for nausea, shots to make white blood cells, pills to stop the chemo from giving me heartburn, and on and on it goes.  I long to see only the old wooden table that Steve put the finish on, and that our kids grew up painting on, eating on, decorating cookies on, and scratching up with their silverware...and to see it completely bare again, with perhaps a cheery little plant or candle in the center. 

1.  Fridays.  After 18 Fridays being taken up by chemo, Daniel and I will both have our Fridays back!  We can unpack our chemo bag, return it to its rightful use as a gym bag, and actually schedule normal activities again for Fridays if we so choose.  Or perhaps we'll leave them gloriously free, uncluttered, unstressed.  To not overpack my schedule, as I am proned to do, would be a great lessen to take with me from having had cancer.  HAD cancer.  Past tense.  Thank you, Lord, for those glorious words!



Friday, May 17, 2013

5/17/13 Done with last double chemo!!

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  My friend Clint from work, who is a fantastic writer/editor and has published many novels, thinks I use too many explanation points and smiley faces in my e-mails.  But even Clint would agree, since his own wife has had cancer, that many explanations points and smiley faces are needed to adequately describe how it feels to finish one's final double chemo!!! :-) :-)

The segs in my white blood cells were in the 400s last week, so I couldn't get chemo and needed to get to 1000, MINIMUM, this week.  They came in at 1040 (only a good number when thinking segs, not taxes)!  That's cutting it close though.  Daniel and I were majorly relieved to get chemo today and amazingly, it only took five hours exactly.  We watched one low-rated movie (What to Expect When You are Expecting), read a little, and I napped after the benadryl pumped into me.  I was way too sleepy to play Scrabble and risk losing to Daniel by 100 points!  We baked and brought chocolate chip walnut brownies for our cancer care team and saved out two for ourselves to enjoy with lunch.  Yummo!

Because my segs after double chemo will drop into the hundreds again, the same rules apply for this week: no crowds, no sick people, no kids, lots of hand washing and desanitizing things I touch often.  Tomorrow I start the stomach shots of neupogen again for five days straight this week with a repeat next week.  The shots should ensure that I will be DONE with chemo two weeks from today!  I am excited to begin tearing the pink paper chain links off our banister again tonight to countdown the final two weeks! :-)  If anyone you love gets cancer and needs chemo or radiation, make them a paper chain to count down.  You can put encouraging words on the inside of each link like "You can beat the _ _ _ _ out of cancer!" or a favorite Scripture verse or quote.  I can't tell you how much tearing off those rings each night has encouraged me.  Thanks, Renee and Daniel!  What awesome kids (excuse me--young adults) you are!

In my last blog, I think I mentioned something about wanting to "give back" some of the comfort I myself have received from God--and from all of you--during my cancer journey.  God has answered that prayer already!  Aside from the woman I support via e-mail in New York who has my same cancer (Linda), I was saddened to learn of two more women newly diagnosed with cancer.  One is the mother of one of Renee's SPU friends and one is a young mother that our former pastor's wife brought to my attention.  If you feel so led, please pray for these women and that perhaps I will have something in the way of comfort, tips, and HOPE to offer to them, reaped from God's faithfulness to me these past five months. 

After a rather dull week staying away from everyone, yesterday I walked with my friend and neighbor, Laura, when she got home from work.  And during the day, Daniel and I challenged our good friends, Frank and Heather, to a FIERCE game of putt putt golf at our favorite course in Redmond.  Frank is turning 80 in November (though he looks 60) and had petitioned us for a 10 point handicap due to his age.  Ha!  Daniel and I categorically denied his petition, stating that if anyone deserved a handicap, it would be Daniel, who has only had 23 years to work on his mini-golf putting prowess.  Besides, I have never met anyone more competitive--and who loves to win more--than Frank (though my colleagues and family might say that I hold that title).  I tried my best, but "weakened by weeks of grueling surgery, chemotherapy, and nausea" (ha again!), I came in second to Frank, who beat me by SIX strokes, the stinker!  Heather came in third and Daniel, a little off his game, in fourth.  He was a bit distracted by a pond full of huge frogs that he kept trying to catch for a closer look when he was between holes.  He's such a biologist and just loves all creatures, great, small, and slimy.  Out of respect for his painful loss, he and I are both sporting brand new frog tattoos on our necks (of the temporary variety, of course).  These remind us of the acronym F R O G--Fully Relying On God, as well as the frogs we frequently find while mini golfing!  And Frank--watch your back, as we are gunning for you next time!!  This evening Daniel went out with Renee and some friends and Steve and I enjoyed a sunny walk and talk before dinner (my friend Dean calls this a "walkie talkie), and played a rousing game of Scrabble (now that I was wide awake from the steroids given during chemo and the Benadryl had worn off).  I lucked out getting the high point letters and using all my letters once so I beat him.  But Steve put up a good fight, despite his lower point letters.  He's a formidable foe with word games, being someone who can finish a Sunday crossword puzzle with relative ease.  Then we watched some t.v.  A walk, a rousing game of Scrabble, and t.v. is what you call a pretty hot date night for two middle aged people after one of them has had a double dose of chemo, her sixteenth straight week of chemo, no less! 

Thanks to all of you who prayed for us and sent cards this week.  You know who you are and the cards continue to cheer us no end.  Thanks to Renee who visited this week and brought me a new flavor of Burts Bees lip balm--grapefruit!  Thanks to Gordie and Mary for a good laugh.  When they read in the blog that I couldn't get my last chemo they said "NUTS!"  Hence, they drove up here and presented us with a can of the most delicious roasted almonds I have ever had!  I munched on them at chemo today.  Thanks to my friend Judy who brought us really delicious and healthy homemade organic chicken and rice soup and a pretty pink hydrangea yesterday!  Thanks to Mike for making and dropping off more of his wonderful homemade yogurt!  And thanks to anyone else I'm forgetting who has shown us kindnesses that have touched our hearts and ministered to our bodies and spirits this past week. 

On my mind before I go to bed tonight is news we received today that our neighbor two houses down just died of a sudden heart attack less than one week after we chatted with him at a backyard bbq for another neighbor's birthday.  Steve spent a long time talking to him at that bbq.  He seemed totally healthy and fine, so it is shocking that five days later he has died.  If there is a lesson from this sad news, and a lesson from my cancer, it's the age old one that we seem to keep forgetting--to cherish the gift of life God has given us every single day.  What joy there is each day you wake up and you and your loved ones are all "o.k."  And joy in loving and serving the people God has put in your life, and receiving that love and those acts of kindness back from them.  Despite double chemo, there has been a lot of joy for me today--hanging out with Daniel at chemo, being told how much the Cancer Care Center staff loved our brownies, reading a sweet card that arrived in the mail, and beating Steve at Scrabble (Who is competitive? Not ME)!  Let's look for that daily joy and count our blessings.  It makes the hard stuff so much easier to cope with when we do that and hopefully, whenever our lives end, we will die content and without regrets.

Let me close with a Scripture Daniel and I read in our One Year Bible reading today.  At the start of John chapter 9, there was a man born blind and the disiples asked Jesus if he was blind because he or his parents had sinned.  Well, if you read the book of Job, you will see that there is no one to one correlation between sin and suffering (thankfully, for all our sakes)!  And Jesus confirmed that in John 9:3: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." 

I hope that people can see how God's work has been displayed in my life and Steve, Renee, and Daniel's lives during "our" five months of battling cancer.  I know the four of us have seen Him working pretty much daily.  But as I near the end of the treament phase, you might catch me sneaking in a prayer now and then that goes something like this: "Lord, would it be ok if your work is displayed in someone else's life for awhile after I finish chemo on May 31? ;-)"  Not that I'm wishing for anyone else to get cancer--no how, no way, let there be no more cancer



P.S.  Current prayer requests are for no trouble with getting my last two chemos and for calming of my peripheral neuropathy symptoms--nerve pain in hands and feet--caused by cumulative effects of the chemo drugs.  I was told today that it takes six months or so for the symptoms to go away after finishing chemo.  Nausea is actually easier to deal with than pain, so I'd gladly take the next five days of nausea if the hand/foot pain would go away!  Thanks for praying!! :-) :-) (That's for you, Clint!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

5/14/13 MORE Great News!!!

Dear Family and Friends,

Gabrielle here.  We had just finished eating our molten chocolate cakes last night--a celebratory dessert for the great news of my clear body scan--when Daniel checked his e-mail and found the news that HE HAS BEEN ADMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE for entrance in August 2013...graduation, Class of 2017!

To help you understand the magnitude of this news, first, I must tell you that it is an answer to a prayer I have prayed nearly daily for the last five years.  The prayer went like this:  "Lord--please help Daniel to get into med school close to home, preferably at the University of Washington, so he will be near us and be able to get in-state tuition and graduate with less debt."  Steve, Renee, and Daniel have also been faithfully praying variations of this prayer for many months. 

Second, Daniel would like to make it clear that he gives all thanks and praise to God for what he terms "this miracle" of getting into his first choice medical school.  The odds were against him.  There were 5,000 applicants which made for a 4% chance that he would be accepted.  It is a stellar medical school, ranked number one in the country in primary care, family practice, and rural medicine, and ranked number two in the country in NIH funding for research.  In fact, it is ranked in the top ten in eight out of ten categories in which U.S. News and World Report ranks medical schools.  (Wow--I sound like I'm back on the development staff at the U of W where I started my fund raising career!)  But despite the odds, we believe Daniel was in the 4% because God wanted him at this particular medical school.  Only God knows all the reasons, of course.  But from my perspective, I believe God knew before all of us did that I would be fighting cancer and that our family would need Daniel in THIS Washington, not the other one (WA DC where his second choice school is located). 

We are so proud of Daniel--for his hard work, determination, and focus on the goal of medical school for this past five years.  But first and foremost, we are proud of his good heart.  It's a heart that loves God and loves people.  And a heart that wants to serve people by helping them heal from illness and injury, offering compassionate care and hope to those who suffer. 

And we are so thankful to God for this answered prayer on the same exact day we got the good news about my clear body scan.  "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights..."  (James 1:17)

Special thanks to all of you who have prayed with me for Daniel to get into the UW, and to Gordie Nygard, Dr. Koskela, Dr. Nelson, Dr. Long, and Dr. Streidl who believed in Daniel and wrote his letters or recommendation.  And thanks to Dr. Cunningham and Dr. Ellenbogen at Children's who opened the doors for Daniel to have such incredible research and pediatrics learning experiences.  Our hearts are full of gratitude to you all!



P.S.  GO HUSKIES!  :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

5/13/13 GREAT news!!!

Dear friends and family,

Gabrielle here.  This morning I had my CAT scan and instead of having to wait until tomorrow to get the news, Steve was able to get the results from the hospital today.

I am overjoyed to report that my scan was ALL clear...with NO evidence of metastatic disease!!!  We are giving thanks and praise to God in the Dudley household today, not only for His healing work in my life through this course of chemotherapy but also, for all of you who have stood by us with prayers, love, and kindnesses.  Thank you SO much! 

We still have a little ways to go.  We need my segs (part of white cells) to go up from the 400s to around 1,000 in order for me to get chemo Friday, which my chemo nurse today said might be "iffy."  I have to finish three more chemos to complete my treatment phase.  It would also be great if my CA125 came down a little by the end of chemo, maybe from 18 to below 15.  So these are some specific things you could pray for this week for me. 

It is very difficult for a "social butterfly" like me to be in "seclusion!"  Opening my calendar for the week and seeing NOTHING fun, only medical appointments, is a bit of a bummer.  But I am doing my very best to not get sick or catch any germs of any kind from anyone...especially from Steve.  His cold is getting better, but is not all the way gone yet, so I'm keeping my distance (much to his chagrin).  I guess that's another prayer request!

I also wanted to share that I had a very encouraging e-mail this weekend from a woman whom I have not yet met, but will meet soon, who is a 30-year survivor of ovarian cancer.  Her e-mail lifted my spirits (as I worried about what my CAT scan would show) and gave me hope.  I look forward to the day that I will be healthy and strong and can give back encouragement and hope to others facing cancer or any similar hardship, just as it says in this verse I love:  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

My heart is rejoicing today...please rejoice with me!  :-)



P.S.  Thanks to my dearest ones, Steve, Renee, and Daniel, for my awesome Mother's Day, complete with chocolate chip pancakes, a walk, lots of flowers and a toaster (what Mother's Day is complete without a new appliance?!), and two "edge of your seat" episodes of Grey's Anatomy!  And thanks to my college friend in California, Janet, who bought us gourmet pizza for dinner!